When National is under attack – Deflect, deflect, deflect!
As I have pointed out in previous blogposts, when threatened with bad headlines or a scandal of some description, National’s automatic defense is to generally to default to one of three* deflections;
- Blame previous the Labour government
- Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
- Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event
There are plenty of past instances of this kind of strategy.
In February 2013, the Auditor-General found that National gave Skycity special treatment when negotiating a convention centre in return for 500 additional pokie machines. In a damning report, Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith said;
“Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”
National’s response was immediate. The following day, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows launched into an attack on so-called welfare fraud;
In May 2014, faced with mounting criticism over National’s incompetent mis-handling of legalised synthetic marijuana, our esteemed Dear Leader announced a new policy to introduce a new, restrictive, regulatory framework for psychoactive substances. Key had no shame in blaming Labour for the Opposition attempting to offer solutions to a botched drug-policy that National was wholly responsible for;
Mr Key said that, in hindsight, the Government should have taken an ultra conservative view last year and not given any legal high substances a waiver.
And he said the Labour Party forced his Government’s hand over announcing a new ban on synthetic drugs, which will take effect on 8 May.
The Government’s new ban was announced late on Sunday after the Labour Party said it would announce on Monday its own plan to immediately stop the sale of synthetic cannabis and other psychoactive substances.
Mr Key said his cabinet decided last Tuesday on a ban but wanted to keep quiet about it to cut down on stockpiling by consumers.
He said the Labour Party has not affected the Government’s policies on synthetic drugs but forced its hand in terms of the announcement.
Also in mid-2014, National was hit with multiple bad-news media stories;
Currently, our esteemed Dear Leader is facing political, media, and public heat over New Zealand being a party to the tax-haven industry. When challenged, Key first denied that New Zealand was a tax haven;
“Tax havens are where there is non-disclosure of information – New Zealand has full disclosure of information, and so all you’ve got is New Zealand’s taken a different view from a lot of different jurisdictions and that’s because the way we tax is we tax a settlor.
In other words, it’s all about making sure New Zealanders pay their fair share of tax, what we’ve got is quite a legitimate regime.”
Then Labour Leader, Andrew Little, challenged Key to disclose his tax-returns – which Key refused point blank.
Again, on cue, National’s media strategists dropped a Deflection #2 ‘bomb’ into the public discourse, with this offensive vilification of ” basically young males” from Bill English;
English’s disparagement of young, unemployed New Zealand men was roundly condemned by fair-minded New Zealanders – but the demonisation tactic had worked. For a moment, the public and media had taken their eyes of the Tax Haven ball. Which would not be the first time;
However, in making that ill-advised comment, English may have accidentally opened a can of inconvenient but still-salient facts;
- Prior to the 2007/08 GFC, unemployment stood at around 3.4% – or 78,000 workers.
- As the GFC/Recession impacted on our economy, unemployment reached 7.3% by 2013 – throwing 154,000 people out of work.
- Seventysix thousand people lost their jobs as a result of dubious activities in the financial markets. Or did those 76,000 suddenly decide to voluntarily give up their jobs to go on the dole for $200 a week?
- Though the official unemployment rate is currently at 5.3% – there still remains 133,000 out of work.
- In 2009, National scrapped the Training Incentive Allowance which benefitted many solo-parents looking to re-train and move off welfare into paid employment
The history of entrenched high-unemployment can be seen to have taken root in the late-1980s, as right-wing economic “reforms” were implemented by Roger Douglas and his cronies. Note the rise of unemployment rate and numbers from late 1987 and early 1988, when neo-liberalism was introduced into the economy and workplace;
Reference: Trading Economics – Unemployed Persons – Unemployment Rate
So not only was English blaming 133,000 workers for being out of work as the global economy was slowly recovering from the Global Financial Crisis – but is evidently blaming workers for the steady rise of unemployment since the implementation of neo-liberal economics in this country.
Free trade agreements have also played a role in the destruction of jobs in New Zealand. As more and more manufacturing and service jobs were relocated to low-wage societies (China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Fiji, India, etc), the numbers thrown out of work increased in our own country.
Cheap clothes and shoes from low wage societies are not cheap. They were paid for with the jobs of our fellow New Zealanders.
Bill English’s repugnant diatribe at Federated Farmers – where his ignorant, red-neck views no doubt found sympathy with certain elements from the crudely-informed rural community – are in stark contrast with his stated comments on 28 May 2009. As the GFC storm was beginning to buffet our economy, English was full of sympathy as more and more people were ending up unemployed;
“We are particularly concerned that the economy creates new jobs. The burden of a recession falls most harshly on those who lose their jobs and on their communities. We owe them every effort to create the opportunity for a new job.”
Mr English apparently no longer believes “we owe them every effort to create the opportunity for a new job” and has shifted the “burden of recession” firmly back onto the shoulders of the unemployed.
Or perhaps it is high time that people started asking the acolytes of the Church of Neo-liberalism – at what point do they understand and accept that blaming the victims of their failed, inflexible, free-market doctrine will not make that ideology work?
How long do we have to wait, Mr English?
* In Auckland’s on-going housing-crisis situation, a fourth Deflection can be applied as a useful tactic to take the heat of National’s inept policies;
4. Blame the RMA
Number 4 deflection can be used in conjunction with Number 1 deflection. Or even Deflection #2, for maximum reactionary responses from the ill-informed.
Fairfax media: SkyCity report slates Government ministers
Radio NZ: Legal highs to be regulated by July
Radio NZ: NZ’s ‘world-class’ tax system defended
Parliament: 3. Prime Minister—Statements
TV3 News: ‘No doubt’ NZ is a tax haven – expert
Fairfax media: ‘Hopeless’ comment a sign of a tired Government
Employment.govt.nz: Employment and unemployment – March 2008 Quarter
Trading Economics: Unemployed persons
Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter
Statistics NZ: Labour Market Statistics: December 2015 quarter
Scoop media: Speech – Bill English – Budget 2009
The Standard: Trickledown has failed
The Standard: Offers of help flood in to Bill English
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 April 2016.
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